Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leonard Cohen and the Order of the Unified Heart

I saw Leonard Cohen last night! It was an amazing, breathtaking, unbelievably moving concert. I've never been so privileged to be part of any performance before.

It was at the Garden, and I had box seats with my mom, which put us very far away. But the sound was incredible (which is unusual for the Garden) and the big monitors helped.

He gave two very full sets. He started at 8 and went to 11:30 with a short break in between-- he did about four encores!. In fact, when the first part was over, I thought that was it. After all, the man is 75 years old.

He was incredible. His voice was beautiful, his lyrics are heart-rending. The band was awesome, really loved and felt his music and played with passion and emotion. My favorite was Anthem, (which was the final number of the first set, and which I thought was his finale).

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In the Realms of the Unreal

In the Realms of the Unreal is a documentary about Henry Darger.

I've seen his work exhibited a few times, and really, really love it. It is so complex and so simple, so incredibly strange and unique.

I never knew anything about Darger other than he was an "outsider artist."

This documentary tells his life story, largely through the lens of his own writings, particularly his autobiography and the 15,000 page novel he wrote. All of his paintings are illustrations for that novel (I hadn't known anything about that) which is about the fight between good and evil empires lead by "The Vivien" girls, seven sisters fighting the cause of Jesus Christ. The title of the novel is In the Realms of the Unreal, and the story is incredibly complex and he spent his life working on it.

Darger was a recluse. Orphaned at young age he was a ward of Catholic charities throughout his childhood (although he had brief stint in an institution for "feeble-minded" children) and eventually became a janitor at a Catholic hospital. He lived all by himself with no family or friends in a one-room apartment. His only contact was with neighbors and his landlord (who provide a lot of the information and footage for the documentary). He died poor, in a Catholic charity run institution, and his work was discovered by his neighbor's after his death.

The documentary was beautiful, exploring so many of his paintings and drawings and using a technique that made them move in a way that I found effective. But, in spite of this, it was a rather flat film. There just wasn't a lot of story there. He remained a mystery. His inner world comes alive through his creative output, but somehow the work and the man are still impenetrable.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Exit Ghost

I just finished reading Exit Ghost, Philip Roth's final Zuckerman novel. I have to say I didn't like it as much as I had hoped. I loved American Pastoral so much, and the Roth I've read since then has just kind of disappointed.

Not that Exit Ghost isn't very good. But it didn't do anything for me. I found the premise contrived: Zuckerman spent 11 years in total isolation in the Berkshires following prostate surgery. The self-imposed isolation just didn't resonate as realistic to me. It seemed like a set up, like an idea. It made the character less real to me.

He returns to NY for a minor surgical procedure and gets sucked into a little drama surrounding a couple with whom he is considering house switching, and a former lover of a former mentor. In between are snippets of imagined dialogue that are supposed to be part of the last piece of fiction Zuckerman writes. Imagined dialogues with the young woman of the NY couple, the young woman with whom he has become desperately infatuated. A significant theme concerns the value of literature in the contemporary world, and the meaning of the distinction between fiction and fact.

I guess I just didn't find the story compelling. The writing was excellent; the story, not so much.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Postcards from the Edge

You take a well-written script and two very good acting performances and still end up with a basically lukewarm movie. Postcards from the Edge is smart and enjoyable and even moving at times. Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine as the Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds daughter/mother pair do a great job. But somehow the movies is just okay.

It's about an actress with an overbearing famous mother coming to terms with her adulthood in the aftermath of her own accidental drug overdose. It's sort of cheesy, but the humor is very wry and it makes you really like Carrie Fisher (who wrote it) (and who is in an autobiographical one-woman show that is playing in New York at the moment, Wishful Drinking).

Get My Flash On

I went to an interesting group art exhibit in Bushwick last night called Get My Flash On featuring work of recent graduates from SUNY Purchase's school of art and design.

Most of the work was displayed in the rooms of a small apartment building. I enjoyed looking at everything, but was most taken by a charming collection of ceramic pieces by Zena Pesta. I believe the work is called "Zip it and Boogie, Keep it Fresh." I was also drawn to a series of small enamel pieces, called "Line Study" by Andrea Henry.

The exhibit continued on the (unledged) roof, where a ginormous decaying big foot constructed by artist Nathan Margoni. (and I thought I needed a pedicure)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens

Just watched Monsters vs. Aliens. I had seen the trailer last spring when I saw Coraline, and had been very excited about it.

I admit that it's somewhat clever, in an unrelenting, effortful and tepid way. I didn't mind watching it. It isn't terrible.

But, it's not really good either. It has a good premise, good effects, good voice-work, but it's messy, (a little violent and destructive) and predictable.

It deliberately rehashes a bunch of movie cliches, but it never manages to really transcend them or to be funny about them. So it looks like just a big salad of movie elements tossed together.

It's about a girl who on her wedding day gets hit by a meteor and becomes gigantic. She is immediately whisked away by government officials who have a top secret facility where they hide monsters. There's a giant mad scientist cockroach, a giant lizard or some sort, and a lovable giant blob (voiced my Seth Rogen, a real life lovable blob). When the planet is attacked by an evil alien, the monsters are enlisted to fight off the threat. The evil alien is in a giant fortress like spacecraft and at one point the girl (Susan/Ginormica) is held captive and the others go to rescue her. It totally reminded me of The Wizard of Oz when they go to rescue Dorothy from the witch. The alien had clones himself and armies of him were marching around the place, just like the flying monkeys. In fact, at one point the monsters put on their uniform to blend in, just like in The Wizard of Oz.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Tonight I saw Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Metropolitan Opera!

True, I'm not a fan of broad comedy, but this was just stunning. I've never really seen a live opera before, and I was practically transfixed the whole time. In fact, the time basically flew by.

I saw Joyce DiDonato playing Rosina, Claudia Waite, with the small role of the housekeeper. I loved her voice and would have liked more of her. The diminutive Barry Banks played Coutn Almaviva, and I didn't care too much for his voice actually. It just didn't transport me the way the other singers' did. Rodion Pogossov played Figaro, and he was funny and charming and had a big presence (although also, like the Almaviva, a slight man). The music teacher was played by Orlin Anastassov, who had a wonderfully rich bass voice. But he hammed up the performance in a kind of bizarre way that I found unpleasant. Everyone was basically great and I was just absolutely thrilled to be there.
It's astounding, the vocal ability of opera singers. I mean, I feel like an ass saying that, but it really does leave one in awe.

I had never been to the Met and I found the experience very uplifting and exciting. Just being in the opera crowd...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Opera on Tap at The Brooklyn Museum

Some friends and I went to the Target First Saturdays thing at the Brooklyn Museum tonight because the events were all opera-related. As it was the last time I went to one of their First Saturdays, the scene was confusing and kind of tedious. However, at 8 they started a two-hour open mic opera session and it was amazing. The people that got up were almost all really, really good, and it was such a fun and lively format. The majority of people who performed, however, were from a troupe called Opera on Tap that performs in bars throughout the city. I'm going to get on their mailing list and make sure to catch them again!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall For Dance!

Last night I went for a performance at City Center's Fall for Dance festival. It was an amazing program that included Ballet West performing a large ballet set in the 20s, a male duo from Dendy Dancetheater performing a magical, amazing, and haunting "Afternoon of the Faunes", New York City Ballet, "Four Bagatelles", and Mark Morris' company doing "Grand Duo" -- which I had seen before.

My hands down favorite was the Dendy duets. It's impossible for me to describe how terrific it was. Emotional, artistic, athletic... The New York City Ballet's "four bagatelles" duets were very lovely, but kind of the least exciting.